One week from their arrest by the Thai authorities after fleeing persecution by China, the leaders of a group of 63 Chinese Christians say they are praising God in their Bangkok prison cells and sharing the Gospel.
Fourteen male members of Shenzhen Reformed Holy Church, also known as the Mayflower Church, remain under arrest after being picked up by 20 Thai police from their hotel. The whole church group face the threat of deportation back to China, where human rights activists say they risk jail and other punishments.
A message from church leader Pastor Pan sent from his prison cell and shared with Premier Christian News by Bob Fu of Texas-based China Aid Association, says the men do not know what is happening to the women and children.
In the message, Pastor Pan also says that men are only permitted access to their cell phones for ten minutes each day.
“Peace to the dear members in Christ: Thank you for your urgent prayers for us!” it reads. “The prison is not open to anyone for visits. Bibles and food can be received daily from the outside.”
The group comprises 28 adults and 35 children and remains in contact with US Embassy staff, who are negotiating bail terms and their possible release. The whole church hopes to find permanent settlement in the USA.
Inside the immigration detention centre close to Bangkok Airport, where they are being held on charges of breaching visa conditions despite their asylum claims, Pastor Pan declared, “We are greatly thankful for the fruitfulness of being in prison.”
The Chinese leader described their outreach work: “Today we continue to worship and spread the Gospel”.
He continued: “A 24-year-old young man, an undergraduate nursing major, escaped from a farm in Xinjiang who smuggled himself into Thailand and was imprisoned, now penniless.
“I have been sharing the Gospel with him since I entered the cell and have been preaching the Good News non-stop every day. The elders and I are considering today whether to baptize him.”
Bail requirements under Thai law may require each member of Mayflower Church to pay £1,300 to secure release, but fines could also be levied for the failure of church members to secure permission for their visas from the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok.
The letter from a prison cell by Pastor Pan ends with a plea for God’s intervention.
“We keep interceding and praying for our wives and children as well as that mother who is pregnant, asking the Lord Himself to take care of our beloved ones in our place, to be their husband and their father!”, it reads.
“Pray that the Lord would open a way out for us! Pray that the Lord will remember us all, keep us all, and be with us!”
According to sources close to the US State Department speaking off the record to Premier Christian News, diplomatic efforts to secure freedom for the church remain active.